14 September 2022
Where fantasy deckbuilding and admin collide
As the sun slowly dips below the treeline, our weary band of adventurer’s finally see an end to their quest. The battle ended an hour ago, as the [spoiler] of [spoiler] and its [spoilers] were dispatched into the [spoiler]. As legacy adventurers, that was just half the battle. But now, with envelopes opened, experience points spent, and ill-fitting stickers poorly placed on various components and pages, home was in sight.
For the uninitiated, the original Aeon’s End deck-building card game arrived in 2016. Multiple expansions have followed, with Aeon’s End: Legacy arriving in 2019. This latest edition integrates with earlier editions, while also acting as a base set – so it can be played standalone once you’ve completed the campaign.
It’s set in a unique fantasy world where one-to-four players take the roles of unique mages, co-operating to take down a nemesis and its minions. You do this by adding to your initial deck of cards by spending aether (the game’s currency) on more powerful ones. But you need to balance deck-building against charging your unique special ability and focusing breaches.
Breaches are used to line up spells for your next turn. The average mage starts with one breach open and another three that can be focused, allowing the casting of multiple spells. Spells make up a portion of your deck, alongside Gems (giving you aether) and Relics (a variety of immediate effects). You never shuffle your cards, instead making your discard pile your draw pile when the deck runs out. So, how you order your discards has a strategic effect on later turns. It’s a solid system that has won an army of fans, nicely blending tactics and strategy in a one hour-ish playing experience.
So, what does Legacy of Gravehold hold? I’ll do my best to keep this spoiler free, but if you don’t want to know anything more stop reading now. Hopefully you’ve read enough – it's more Aeon’s End, with even more bells and whistles than the previous expansions.
As the name suggests, this is a legacy game. You’ll be using stickers and pens and scissors to edit or even destroy cards, player boards and the rulebook as you work through a series of battle scenarios. Completing the full campaign will see you fighting at least 18 battles, or perhaps more If you fail any (some let you retry if you lose). You only play the campaign once, but most of the nemesis can be replayed after the campaign ends.
Whether you want to do this is a different question. Outside of the battles, Legacy of Gravehold plays more like an RPG. A battle will take a few quick players around 60 minutes, or slower/careful ones 90-120 minutes. But admin between battles will take another hour. One dedicated player can do half of it acting like a traditional DM, arranging card decks, opening envelopes and sticking new sections into the rulebook. That’s down to the game owner and your group.
The rest is to do with the story and character progression. There’s a small amount to read together, as the narrative booklets work like ‘choose your own adventure’ books. These introduce new characters and cards, often depending on your decisions or how well you completed your last battle. You spend experience points gained as a group, improving spells, characters, or your home base. It’s an interesting and tricky debate, as you vie to get what you want – while weighing it up against the group’s larger needs. Again, depending on the group, this can be quite the conversation.
Personally, I found the narrative pretty average. It’s a standard fantasy tale but does the job of introducing characters and explaining why you’re getting new goodies. More importantly, the game plays smoothly and there’s a genuine feeling of progression. The decisions around spending experience are interesting, while the fact you can switch between characters is great if you get bored of your mage choice. Each nemesis and character genuinely plays differently, seeing you switching tactics in each scenario, which keep things fresh. Overall, Aeon’s End: Legacy of Gravehold is unlikely to convert anyone who doesn’t like fantasy co-op card-based games. But it should delight those who do.
PLAY IT? MAYBE
Try this if you liked Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
If you want to step up both the depth of story and complexity after playing Harry Potter: Hogwart’s Battle.
Designer: Sydney Engelstein, Nick Little, Kevin Riley
Publisher: Indie Boards & Cards
Time: 60 minutes
What’s in the box?
- 28 Decks of cards and matching dividers
- 175 Cardboard tokens
- 2 Carboard life dials
- 2 Narrative books
- Paper map
- 22 Legacy envelopes (with more cards, boards, stickers, chits etc)
Looking for more?
This review came from Tabletop Gaming Magazine, which is home to all of the latest and greatest tabletop goodness. Whether you're a board gamer, card gamer, wargamer, RPG player or all of the above, find your copy here.Get your magazine here
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